Hillary’s Hidden South Carolina Dilemma

|| by Will Galloway ||

Columbia – Hillary Clinton’s campaign is banking on a strong finish in the South Carolina Primary to stop insurgent Bernie Sanders’ momentum after two potential victories in Iowa and New Hampshire. But is she taking South Carolina for granted?

Clinton is highly popular among African-Americans, who make up more than half of South Carolina’s democrats, but favorability doesn’t always translate into electoral success. For example, she has nearly 80% favorability in New Hampshire, where she trails Bernie Sanders by 12 points in the Real Clear Politics average of polls.

Clinton’s South Carolina problems began while Joe Biden was exploring his own Presidential Bid. When Biden made a definitive statement that he was not going to run, many of his most prominent backers decided to remain neutral. Most notably, State Senator Gerald Malloy (D-Darlington) and State Representative James Smith (D-Richland) have not endorsed any candidate. This, along with a general lack of enthusiasm from the Clinton camp, has complicated her plans for a Palmetto State Firewall.

I asked Lauren McDowell, a South Carolina Democrat who supports Bernie Sanders, to share her thoughts about the “enthusiasm gap” between Sanders and Clinton.

“I definitely think Bernie’s supporters are more energetic than Clinton’s. When Sanders is talking, he shows passion. You really know that he believes what he’s saying. It’s especially contagious for younger people,” McDowell said.

Sanders’ SC strategy does rely on an unusually high turnout of younger voters and urban voters. South Carolina’s most liberal Democrats are college students and those who live in cities, such as Columbia, Rock Hill, Florence, and especially Charleston. His staff, including a number of former SCDP operatives, is working on creating a massive turnout operation in these areas.

Clinton’s strategy, on the other hand, is focused on a dominant performance in the 6th congressional district, currently held by Rep. Jim Clyburn, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1.

Malik Frazier, a Hillary Clinton supporter who says he’s taking a second look at Bernie Sanders, thinks that Sanders still has a chance to win over some of Clinton’s supporters.

“With the momentum Bernie has, I believe he still has a chance to win over African American votes,” Frazier said. “He needs to talk about how he was arrested in a civil rights demonstration.”

Frazier does believe that Bill Clinton will be an asset to Hillary. “I believe because of Bill’s former role in Government, she will still lock down African American votes.”

“Hillary doesn’t have the momentum that Sanders has,” he said. “Clinton needs to get more ground troops in SC and she needs to gain some momentum.”

McDowell agreed that Bernie has the momentum, especially among younger voters.

“This generation is looking for someone that’s going to bring change to the country. Bernie is bringing energy everywhere he travels. He may be one of the oldest candidates, but he’s got the millennial vote,” she said.

In my opinion, Clinton needs a 20 percent margin of victory to keep Sanders from mounting a challenge in the Super Tuesday votes. While I don’t expect a Sanders victory, he needs to keep Hillary’s victory in the single digit margins. If he does this, especially after potential victories in the first two nominating states, he could mount a serious challenge to Clinton in the March voting, delegate heavy states.

Martin O’Malley has the potential to play spoiler here. If he drops out after Iowa or New Hampshire, he’ll leave two prominent endorsements up for grabs. First, state Senator and two time nominee for Governor, Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw); and Boyd Brown, a former state Representative and prominent Democratic operative. O’Malley commands a small but loyal 2.5 percent of South Carolina voters, according to the RCP average of polls.

An endorsement from either of these two individuals would boost one of the two remaining Democratic candidates.

Whatever happens in the South Carolina primary, it will shape the contours of the Democratic Primary going forward into March and elsewhere.

Note: The SC Democratic Primary is on February 27th. Those wishing to vote in it will need to register with the South Carolina State Election Commission by January 27th. You can register online at scvotes.org. 


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